By on August 20, 2020

Quick badge swaps between Chrysler and Mitsubishi were common throughout the Eighties. Mostly a one-way affair, Chrysler rebranded Mitsubishi products as Colts, Plymouths, and Dodges. These captive imports generated revenue via Chrysler’s brand recognition while cheaply filling gaps in the domestic company’s lineup.

Today marks our first Chrysler-branded Mitsubishi, and it’s certainly the sportiest rebadge we’ve seen here. Presenting the Chrysler Conquest, from 1988.

Chrysler existed without a sports car in its portfolio for the early part of the Eighties, but did sell the Mitsubishi Galant Lambda as the Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Sapporo. Those offerings ended in 1983, and in 1984 Chrysler received its own sporty car in the front-drive Chrysler Laser. That same year, Dodge received its own Laser version, as well as Mitsubishi’s Starion (as Conquest), which Mitsubishi sold on North American shores since 1983. Chrysler had to make do with the Laser as its sole sports offering until 1987, when the Conquest moved mildly upmarket for its duties at ChryCo’s finest showrooms.

Fitting its sporty mission, all examples of the Starion and Conquest were turbocharged, making use of inline-four Mitsubishi engines. Displacement options were of 2.0 or 2.6 liters, and power was transferred to the rear through a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual. Starion was based on a revised version of the Galant Lambda platform, serving as its direct successor.

There were two different body styles of Conquest, due to Japanese regulations on size. Early models were all the “narrow body,” with a 66.3-inch width. That width (and the 2.0-liter engine) qualified for a lower tax bracket. As the Starion had branched out to the American market, half way through 1985 Mitsubishi made a concession and debuted a wide-body version. Overall width grew to 68.7 inches.

But the product differentiation didn’t stop with a width adjustment. Narrow versions were now considered the entry model, and went without an intercooler on the turbo. Wide body versions had an intercooler, and most often used the larger 2.6-liter engine. Denoting the upmarket models were ESI-r badges for the Starion, and TSi markings on the Conquest. Upon the introduction of the TSi in North America, the narrow body cars were called Technica. In select markets which didn’t receive any wide-body cars, there was a concession: a more powerful ESI-r trim in narrow body format. Power figures ranged from 150 to 197 horses depending on region, turbocharger, intercooler option, and number of heads (eight or 12).

Mitsubishi continued to fiddle with things like wheel lug count and axles for the remainder of the Conquest’s run. Things got narrower for the wide body in 1988, with a decrease to 68.3 inches. That same year the car was lowered by nearly two inches, thus completing its final look. 1989 marked the last year for Conquest and Starion, as their American-made DSM successors — Plymouth Laser and company — were ready for 1990.

Today’s black-on-black Conquest TSi is in very rare form with low miles. Located in Florida, it asks $6,999.

[Images: seller]

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37 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1988 Chrysler Conquest – an American Sports Coupe...”


  • avatar
    craiger

    “Power figures ranged from 150 to 197 horses depending on region, turbocharger, intercooler option, and number of heads (eight or 12).”

    Most consumers at the time were unaware that the Conquest was available with a choice of radial engines.

  • avatar
    dwford

    This just shows you how far gone the Chrysler nameplate actually is- they were selling rebadged Mitsubishi sports coupes as Chryslers 32 years ago. So it was a hodgepodge of crap 30+ years ago at least. Let it die already

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I feel like it was an ’86 but we had an exact one of these in 2004 and I drove it. I don’t recall it having much power and for some reason it had a number of scratches on both doors. The interior did not feel very “Japanese” as similar Nissans or Toyotas of the time, which I thought was a real shame. But I suppose Chryco thinking was something along the lines of, ‘Muricanize it as much as possible because we still have customers who remember Pearl Harbor.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    That’s a pretty car with no bad angles, IMO.

    But the Mitsubishi 2.6 was a 50k-mile engine only. After that, they smoked oil at every red light. Unfortunately, it was used widely throughout the Mopar line, but buyers were drawn to it because it was stronger than the home-grown 2.2.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I remember liking these – and the Starion – quite a bit when I was a teenager. They weren’t very common back then and even less so now.

    Did owners start turning up the boost to compete with the Camaros and Mustangs of the era, or was it just so-so reliability?

  • avatar
    JimC2

    It’s a shame that Mitsubishi (and Chrysler) let the 2.6 have “meh” reliability for so long (poor reputation for oil burning and for timing chain longevity). I think it could have made them a lot more money. It was the biggest mass market four cylinder and people like torque and grunt, but it had a real advantage over other fours with its balance shafts. By the time this car was built, Chrysler was putting those in its own 2.5. It’s easy to say in hindsight but I think Mitsubishi missed out on a lot of opportunity in the early 1980s. If they’d made the 2.6 a little bit better then they might have sold a lot more of them.

    Hat tip to whoever posted the MotorWeek retro review last week. There went a few hours of my life that I won’t get back… time well spent!

    The link doesn’t post on wordpress, but cut and paste sS62kg7sZI into youtube for the ’84 Conquest review. Five minutes of retro car entertainment.

    • 0 avatar
      teddyc73

      ““meh” reliability” I see that grammar education is paying off. FYI, the made up term “meh” has been banned due to gross overuse….and because it’s stupid.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        You just used four periods without a space where you should have used an ellipsis and one space (or two spaces like an old fashioned typesetter). That’s a square in grammar nazi bingo… lol.

  • avatar
    RHD

    Chrysler did have a sports, I mean, sort-of-sportyish car in the early ’80’s. It was the Dodge Charger version of the Omni, with sporty stickers, a 2.2 liter engine, a fake hood scoop, and a 4-speed manual with a lower ration 4th gear in order to achieve a faster 0-60 time. The steering wheel was also an improvement, and it had the same spline as the ’60’s Valiants and Darts (as I was happy to find out in 1986).

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Ha, I came by to vaguely remember the unloved Omni O24.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        In defense of the unloved Omni’s sporty variants, they were solidly average and faithful to the original concept of a pony car- let’s not forget that the ’64-65 Ford Falcon was nothing special as a driver’s car: okay engine, okay brakes, okay handling, but affordable transportation.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    One of those relatively rare examples of a 4-pot gasser with >2.5L displacement.

    A friend of a friend’s dad had one and took us hooning around on Ortega Highway in it once. That was when we found out that first friend got motion sick very easily.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Sorry for the OT:

    I’m trying to find a new car for my wife; something that gets good gas mileage, sedan, and with a manual transmission, which she prefers. Not many options here but the Volkswagon Jetta GLI was interesting. A local dealer had a red one, 6-speed manual, and in the cheaper S trim. We liked the base 2019 1.4T rental we had last year during vacation.

    I call and find that the car in question has been in a car accident; happened during a test drive. It’s at the body shop – VW Approved! – right now getting a bumper and the trunk(!) replaced.

    Now my interest in that particular car has dropped. I can’t order one from the factory because, according to the salesman, VW isn’t making new Jettas right now.

    Should I look wider and further, or have the local dealer reach out to another dealer? Salesman seems to be cagey. I would really like the GLI 2.0T engine over the base 1.4T.

    I’ve never bought a new car before so pardon the dumb question.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “Should I look wider and further, or have the local dealer reach out to another dealer?”

      I’d just do it yourself, especially if the people you’re dealing with now seem “cagey”. Inventories are low right now but you should be able to find a red, manual GLI that wasn’t wrecked.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      For a quarter of the price you can get the ’88 Conquest TSi in this article. Don’t worry about it being “old,” the $20-30k difference over the price of a new VW has got you more than covered for many years of happy motoring.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I LOVE the lines on this car, its just so 80s. The squared off fender flares, the popup headlights, the sharp creased spoiler, the deep dish wheels, so good. Just look at all those EQ sliders… pure heaven! For me it checks all the right boxes: Japanese, manual, turbo, hatchback, RWD – the Supra, the RX-7, 300ZX are in the same class but tend to be more pricey. And the C3 behind it is awesome as well. I clearly need to avoid this lot at all costs. I have always lusted after the Starion, however I fear by the time I can own such a “classic” there will be none left. I have the money but no place to store it.

  • avatar
    KOKing

    The Starion is about the most 80s car there is. The styling, the digital dash (I don’t know if US cars ever got em), door-mounted seatbelts, etc. Speaking of the seatbelts, they’re the only ones I know of that have ‘TURBO’ written all over them, and makes a neat automobilia piece.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I still love how these cars look. My folks bought a new Horizon in 87 and dealer had one in the showroom. Still smitten with it. I’d do this if I had room.

  • avatar

    The interior bears a strong resemblance to the 84 Shelby Charger I owned. Always thought these were cool looking cars. Thanks for the write up, Corey!

  • avatar
    Fred

    I looked at this car back in 1985. Salesman wore white shoes, yea the 80s. Got in it for a test drive and mentioned the “low fuel” light was on, but he said don’t worry. Got about 5 minutes into the drive and sure enough, out of gas. I was still interested but salesman-of-the-day walked away. So I bought a Mustang SVO

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    So they wanted to name it “stallion”, as in pony-car related.

    After the conference call was over and the japanese supplier made their several thousand name badges, this it what happened.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Don’t recall last time I saw one of these. I feel like in HS in the 90s there were a few around.

    Always thought they looked pretty cool. Still kinda think that way. Don’t know anything else about it other than I don’t think I want to own one.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    I see a little of my ole’ 1984 944 in that thing. I’d wager that this one would reliably start and not attempt to bankrupt its owner – like the 944 did.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Not to pick nits, but Plymouth never had a version of the 1980s K-car based Dodge Daytona/Chrysler Laser. After the Chrysler Laser was discontinued in 1989 (the Daytona lived on for several more model years), Plymouth did have a version of the Diamond Star trio, also marketed as the Mitsubishi Eclipse and the Eagle Talon.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Correct, Plymouth did not have a G body car. They did have an L body that was sporty. Then the P (?) body Sundance was a bit sporty as well.

  • avatar
    CrTide4Life

    Man, I love these cars. I have had 4 of them over the years. I have had the narrow body Starion with the all digital dash to an 89 TSi with the optional Sports package with had adjustable suspensions, wider wheels, 16×8 in the front and 16x9s in the rear. Had one the blew the head, my fault was running close to 22 pounds of boost om bone stock motor, after that it got a built 5.0 and 5 speed out of a 93 mustang cobra r. These cars where fast for the time and with the 5.0 in it it was a totally different car, turned a fast car into a rocket ship. Would love to get another one and do a proper build with it, maybe swap in a evo mr motor.

  • avatar
    Abe

    Hate to tell u this but radial? Mazda is the only one to use rotary engines. The conquest just like it’s twin the station only came with 1 engine 2.6l 4 valve turbo. While horsepower did vary it only carried between the years. 88 and 89 having the best setup. So sorry ur info is completely wrong. Their was other cars that looked similar but the only factory rotary equiped car in the 80s war the Mazda rx7.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    This is my favored JDM coupe ,based on looks alone, or perhaps tied with an FD Rx 7

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